Schumer moves for votes on House-passed gun control bills

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

A few days ago, Senate Democrats were publicly talking about their reluctance to push for more gun control following the shooting in Buffalo, New York, but hours after news broke about the murders of 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer began the process of bringing two House-approved gun control bills to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

As POLITICO reports, however, it’s unclear how quickly those votes might happen.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) began the Rule 14 process for two gun control bills, allowing the Senate to bypass committee consideration and put a bill directly on the Senate calendar. The two House-passed bills would address the so-called “gun show loophole” and “Charleston loophole” in existing background check policies for firearms purchases. One would require background checks for sales between private individuals and the other would give the FBI 20 days, rather than three, to conduct and communicate background check info to gun dealers.

But as languishing legislation knows best: Placing a bill on the calendar doesn’t guarantee that the Senate will ever take it up, it just makes it available for floor consideration. (Schumer also began the process to add a restaurant aid bill and an insulin affordability bill to the calendar.)

Anti-gun senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut says he’s lobbying Republicans to support the measures, and several Republicans have indicated they’re at least open to a discussion about imposing new restrictions on legal gun owners.

I’ve been on the phone with my Republican and Democratic colleagues, all day yesterday, all morning this morning, trying to find that path forward,” Murphy said Wednesday morning. He pointed to the potential to deal on a small expansion of national background checks or possibly raising the age of purchase on assault weapons.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said he wants to reopen talks about gun safety legislation. Conservative Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) are willing to talk about red flag laws on the federal level, modeled after their home states’ laws.

But with the Senate leaving Thursday for the Memorial Day recess, any talks Murphy can get started will likely be put on pause until Congress returns.

It’s possible that Schumer will try to schedule a vote on the universal background check bill and the legislation expanding NICS delays to 20 days before the Senate adjourns tomorrow, but that would be a lightning-fast response for the chamber. Still, gun control activists (elected and not) believe that their best opportunity to put new gun laws on the books comes in the immediate aftermath of a high-profile shooting, so there’ll be a lot of pressure put on Schumer to hold the votes as soon as possible.

Any bill considered in the Senate will have to get the approval of 60 senators, however, because Sen. Joe Manchin says he’s not nuking the filibuster for gun control.

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a centrist holdout, said he would not support ending the filibuster to pass gun safety legislation. “You would think there would be enough common sense” to pass legislation without it, he said. Mr. Manchin, a Democrat, added, “The filibuster is the only thing that prevents us from total insanity.”

Treat Manchin’s statement with as much skepticism as you like, but he’s been consistent with his views on the filibuster for the past two years, and my guess is he’ll be trying very hard to get ten Republicans to sign on to a version of Manchin-Toomey background check legislation even if he’s a “no” on removing the filibuster from the Senate’s rules.

Beyond the Senate floor, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the nomination of Steve Dettelbach as permanent director of the ATF today, and that might be another area where Manchin, who opposed Biden’s original nomination of gun control activist David Chipman to the position, could toss his Democratic colleagues a bone.. at least if Dettelbach’s nomination eventually gets a vote by the full Senate. We’ll have more on that possibility in a story later today.